Sturgeon’s Architecture

Tyler Cowen wonders about the relative ugliness of modern buildings and offers five possible explanations. I’ll buy a version of his least favorite:

5. Perhaps contemporary suburban developments will be seen as beautiful by future generations. I’ll bet against this one, but we will see.

The boring parts of suburban developments won’t stand the test of time, literally. They’ll be razed. The parts left behind we be deemed beautiful. For example, in Sunnyvale, California, artless ranch-style homes seem to predominate, though it is hard to miss the occasional Eichler. I gather that both styles were built out in Sunnyvale during roughly the same post-WWII period. I predict that the ranches will disappear at a higher rate.

What we have at work here is an extension of Sturgeon’s Law, which says that ninety percent of everything is crap. If two percent of crap is removed each year while the good stuff has a one percent attrition rate after a few centuries there will be far more good stuff than crap left standing. Numbers for hunch illustration only.

Update: A commenter here makes the same point. The correct term is survivorship bias.

One Response

  1. […] Sturgeon’s Architecture buys the assumption that modern buildings are relatively ugly and spins a theory as to why what remains from this time period will be considered beautiful in the future (the ugly will be culled). Why buy the first assumption? Modern buildings are marvels and we should appreciate them at the height of their beauty, right now, for buildings of the future will be far more beautiful. […]

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